When tragedy strikes, it may shatter our hopes for security and peace. We may need to reach out to others, or we may need someone to reach out to us. How can we find comfort in times of suffering and uncertainty? Scripture provides a hope-filled answer.
When a nation faces tragedy, how can it cope? And how do we work through the grief individually when we suddenly lose a loved one? There is hope for the future. You can find comfort and assurance!
We all desire to have a secure, predictable and peaceful world. But when tragedy strikes, we awaken to new realities. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 shocked us. We suddenly realized our society's—and our own—vulnerability. Thousands died as a result of those attacks, and thousands more lost loved ones.
Most of us have lost loved ones at some time in our lives, whether through tragic accidents, disease or violence. How can we cope with such loss? Those who have lost loved ones need comforting. They need hope and reassurance. As Scripture says: "Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11). If you know someone who needs reassurance, give comfort. Let that person know you care. Give a hug or place a phone call. Provide help as you are able. When a loved one hurts, we suffer with that loved one. The Apostle Paul wrote that "there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." (1 Corinthians 12:25-26).
We can identify with those who suffer because we, most likely, have also suffered at one time or another in our own lives. We can empathize with their pain and with their loss. A widow or widower can find comfort in supportive friends and family. You can help others by giving comfort in times of tragedy. Our tears can demonstrate a deep concern for our friends and the victims of tragedy.
If you personally need comfort, there is a greater power in Heaven to give you that comfort. The Creator God, our Father in Heaven, Himself gives spiritual comfort. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God's very name is "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort." When we share our sorrow with our Father in Heaven, He gives comfort. Several of the Psalms express King David's sorrow as he shared his intimate feelings in prayer. You, too, can pray using the Psalms. David cried out in prayer to his God: "Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears; for I am a stranger with You, a sojourner, as all my fathers were" (Psalm 39:12). God answers prayer. David begins the very next Psalm exclaiming, "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry" (Psalm 40:1). God will hear your cry as well. Notice this encouraging promise: "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:5-6).
When we are honest with our feelings, and share them with God in Heaven, He promises to comfort us. Some of us struggle with the problem of evil in the world. We do not understand how an all-powerful God, who is love, can allow such evil in the world. God's long-term plan of salvation takes this into account. There is a real devil who is out to destroy all humanity, and he uses human instruments to perpetrate death and destruction. Satan the Devil is out to thwart God's plan. But he has failed—and will yet utterly fail. We read in Revelation 20 that Satan will be cast into the great abyss at the beginning of the millennium, when Jesus Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God on earth (Revelation 20:1-3).
There will be peace and harmony on Earth under Christ's rulership! That is the good news—the gospel of the Kingdom of God. In the meantime, humanity must understand the realities of good and evil, and of cause and effect! Once mankind learns those deeper lessons through experience, pain, and suffering, it will ultimately choose to follow the only way to world peace—the way of life taught by your Bible and by Jesus Christ. There is hope! There is hope in the coming Kingdom of God, which will bring genuine and lasting world peace, reconciliation among nations and hope for eternal life.
There is hope in the resurrection of the dead. As the Apostle Peter wrote: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).
When tragedy strikes, we can help others. We can encourage, serve and comfort. We know that God is the "Father of mercies and God of all comfort." We can express our grief and we can share our tears as King David did in the book of Psalms. We can come before our High Priest and Intercessor, Jesus Christ, to receive the comfort and help we need: "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16). Our loving Savior and High Priest is willing to give us mercy and grace in time of need, and He can sympathize with our tragedies, because He has been there. He suffered for us, as the Apostle Peter stated in 1 Peter 2:21.
How do you cope with tragedies? Pray with your whole heart! Share your sorrow and pain before the throne of Grace—and God will give you comfort. When our society feels safe and secure, we often follow after the pleasures of this world. Certainly the world itself follows after vanity, as the book of Ecclesiastes reveals. But when disaster strikes, we can be shaken from our light-hearted world to think more deeply about the realities of life. Then, we must find comfort and courage in our relationship with the Creator God who has all power in the universe. Recent fears of terrorism and war have given many a "wake-up call" regarding the fragility of their safety and their physical lives. But more importantly, this wake-up call should move us spiritually. Perhaps we have been living immoral and selfish lives. We need to ask: "What is life all about? Why am I living? What is the ultimate destiny of mankind?" The answer lies in the Bible, and gives us hope. Jesus Christ is still alive! Scripture shows us that we are saved by His life: "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:10).
We need to seek our Savior with all our heart. We need to be awake and alert spiritually. In emphasizing the Ten Commandments, the Apostle Paul wrote: "Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:10-11). We need a spiritual wake-up call! Tragedy in our lives can often help us realize our need for spiritual truth. But what is that truth to which we must awaken? Paul continues in this passage, exhorting us to "cast off the works of darkness" and "put on the armor of light" (v. 12), and he urges us: "Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Romans 13:13-14).
Are you willing to change your life? Christ told His disciples: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). The very first admonition Jesus gave the world was—"Repent." Repentance and faith are the very beginning steps in the awesome and comforting relationship that we can have with God the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ!
That relationship will reveal God's love and His promises to those who seek Him and surrender to Him, far more than we can now imagine. Paul wrote that God "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us" (Ephesians 3:20). God Almighty has all power in the universe. His is omnipotent, all powerful. And He is love. He can bless you above all that you ask or think. He can even protect you in dangerous times.
Bible prophecy is moving ahead, and we need to know the timetable of future events that God has revealed, leading up to His glorious Kingdom. But many today do not have a clue as to the framework of prophecy. They are like the lady, quoted in the New York Times last October 18, who said: "I think what happened was a wake-up call, but I'm still struggling to figure out what it all means." Yet prophecy explains what it all means! God can accomplish His purpose even through tragic events. We need to respond to that wake-up call, and claim God's awesome promises. We need to change our lives and follow the instructions of the Bible. Jesus admonished us: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:33-36).
God loves His children. He promises escape or protection for those who are watching and praying. We need to be more vigilant, more spiritually awake. We need to pray always, as Jesus said. Some of you may need help in learning to pray. Read the prayers expressed so emotionally in the Psalms. During your prayers, try reading Psalm 91—a wonderful psalm of protection:
"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.' Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling" (Psalm 91:1-10).
In Matthew 24, Jesus' disciples asked Him what would be the sign of His coming and the end of the age. Jesus outlined the turmoil and tribulation that would precede His Second Coming. So we know that we will face more trials and troubles in the future. How will we cope with them? The Bible shows us how. First of all, we need to give comfort to others in time of tragedy. We should contribute to their physical, spiritual and emotional needs. We ought to pray for the victims and their families, because we know our prayers can make a difference. "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). Are you praying for the victims of terrorist attacks and other tragedies?
Not only do we comfort others and pray for others, but we ourselves can find comfort and assurance from our Father in Heaven who is called "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3).
We also find hope and assurance in the coming Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ, as the Prince of Peace, will stop all terrorism and ensure peace and prosperity all over the world. The Kingdom of God will rule on this earth. Scripture also assures us that Satan the Devil, the spirit perpetrator behind the scenes, will be cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand years, during which he will not be able to incite hate, evil and terror (Revelation 20:1-3).
When disasters affect us, we can be motivated to think more deeply about the world, the future, and the meaning of life. We can seriously consider changing our own way of living and heed the biblical admonition for a spiritual wake-up call. If we do, we can call on God our Creator in prayer. Scripture exhorts us: "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7).
Finally, we can be comforted by anticipating our own resurrection, confirmed by the Bible in Paul's inspiring words: "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [have died], lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). This great event—the "first resurrection"—will occur at Christ's return. Paul continues: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
Paul reminds us that we can take comfort in Scripture, and that we should give this comfort to others. The truth of the Bible can bring comfort in times of tragedy. We all need this inspiring, hope-filled truth.